Reno, Nev. A string of wildfires that scorched hundreds of square miles of prime habitat has prompted an emergency antelope hunt and relocation of unprecedented scope in Nevada, state officials said.
Nevada Department of Wildlife officials authorized a special hunt of 200 antelope and the relocation of up to 350 others after determining the blackened rangeland is unable to support the herd of more than 1,000 animals northwest of Elko, about 290 miles east of Reno.
The department has never before been forced to conduct an emergency hunt and relocation of such magnitude, spokesman Chris Healy said.
Biologists fear there would be a major die-off this winter if the antelope herd is not thinned.
"The fires have been a disaster for wildlife. It's an absolute crisis," Healy said Sunday. "We've burned so much of the landscape that these animals just don't have a chance."
Antelope and mule deer, which also are under consideration for a hunt, depend on brush and grasses as a food source. Deer also rely on sagebrush for shelter.
Plans call for a two-week hunt beginning Sept. 18. Wildlife officials said they then plan to capture from 100 to 350 antelope in the area and release them in unburned parts of the state.